Five Tips for Making Millennial Friendly Packaging

We recently conducted a major study to determine how millennials engage with retail brands and the role that immersive technology can play in influencing purchase design. Like most organizations, we wanted to learn what drives them to a greater affinity with brands since the Millennial segment is now larger than the Baby Boomers generation with more than 79 million consumers. Our study resulted in some interesting insights on how to make packaging drive a higher level of loyalty and intent to purchase among Millennials. Our research confirms the Millennial cohort is very different from Boomers and the following five tips will help ensure your packaging effectively engages them at retail:

Tip #1: Create a sense of discovery

Millennials are seeking more than just the brand offering and are looking for unique experiences that stimulate all of their senses. Unlike their Boomer cohorts, Millennials are predominantly living in urban settings and see themselves as innovators and early adopters, willing to take a risk in trying something that is not part of the tried and true path. Packaging imagery and copy need to entice Millennials and appeal to their sense of discovery. It could be a range of distinct flavors or ingredients from a unique region. The packaging needs to create that sense of wanting to learn more.

Tip #2: Leverage storytelling as part of the packaging

Further to Millennials’ need for discovery, they are hungry for knowledge and are looking for stories they can share with their friends. They are looking to discover something unique that is memorable and is supported by a unique story. These consumers are seeking brands that also teach them something new while inspiring them. Brands will need to pay greater attention to the location, size and content of their feature stories on packaging. These stories can relate to sustainability benefits, how the product is manufactured or stories about the founders. Ben & Jerry’s ice cream built its point of differentiation around effectively sharing stories about the brand.

Tip #3: Evolve from a product to a sharing experience

Millennials value the experience a brand provides more than the actual product value. They enjoy experiences that allow them to feel part of the story where they control the outcome. This group prefers experiences that can be shared with friends, either as part of a social gathering or on social media through the use of mobile devices.

Through the use of uniquely-designed back panel messaging, in-store shelf communication, QR codes or augmented reality apps, and pop-up retail stores, brands need to evolve their mindset from selling a product to offering a brand experience that can be shared. It could be a ritualistic experience such as the reinvention of Kraft’s Macaroni & Cheese targeting Millennials or an experience that takes the risk out of preparing an exotic meal that can be shared with friends such as Gourmantra Indian meal kits.

Tip #4: Ensure your brand has a strong social media presence

Millennials are highly influenced by online reviews and recommendations found on blogs and social media in addition to advise from their friends and family, while store flyers have less impact on influencing their purchase decision. How the brand lives online and within social media platforms plays a key role in how Millennials perceive it. Crowd-sourced initiatives such as PepsiCo’s “Do us a Flavor” campaign for its Lays potato chip brand support the need for Millennials to engage with the brand while creating a great platform to build hype around the launch of a new flavor. Packaging that establishes a strong link to social platforms with an engaging call to action can help commoditized brands stand out and create sales increases.

Tip #5: Make this packaging experience interactive

Our study clearly indicated Millennials enjoy being entertained and interacting with conventional and emerging immersive technologies. A recent business trip to China clearly identified the power of creating interactive packaging through the use of QR codes. Although many brands have dabbled with this easy-to-use digital link, I believe it was premature in North America as it targeted Boomers who saw little value in this technology. According to our study, the Millennial cohort is hungry for this type of technology, including augmented reality apps. With the growth of virtual worlds such as Second Life and the launch of Oculus Rift VR goggles, the bar has been raised again on customer engagement, and packaging remains a brand’s most important link between the real and virtual worlds.

Brands will need to rethink their packaging approaches to up their game with Millennial consumers who are eager for experiences that feed their desire for discovery and sharing.